Friday, October 30, 2015

tell me about: recognized v. unrecognized

Karen of Bakersfield Dressage shared a great post yesterday about what it's like to trot down the center line at a USDF rated show, and what those scores mean to her, relative to schooling at home or local unrecognized shows. Her point? It's HARD. Hard in a way incomparable to riding at home, in lessons, or at schooling shows.

MDHT Fall Starter #2 @ Loch Moy
It was a great post, but it got me thinking about my own circumstances as they relate to recognized vs. unrecognized (as evidenced by my many lengthy comments on her post haha - sorry Karen!).

This is a topic about which I have already considered my options, discussed with trainers, and ultimately come to a conclusion.

Starter CT @ GE
For me, at this point in my eventing career, unrecognized events are fully satisfying for my purposes.

Because actually, I have only been able to think up two reasons that would motivate me to strictly compete at recognized events while running in the lower levels:
  • Working towards qualifying for medals and/or championships (like the AECs). 
  • Developing a record for a sales (or potentially a sales) horse

Waredaca Starter Trial
Other reasons that come to mind but are not motivating to me:
  • Prestige (aka bragging rights) - simply not important.
  • Quality of judging - I ride with talented trainers who are not interested in flattery. They tell me if my riding is good or not, and work to help me become the best I can be. An inflated judge's score will never trump my trainer's opinion, and poor performances can happen at any level. (you may argue that the atmosphere and pressure of recognized makes it more difficult than a schooling show, but I believe that this diminishes with experience and nerves follow no logic anyway.)
  • Level of difficulty on course - So ok this is more of a concession. But again I think this is something that falls to the responsibility of the coach and me in our training program. Provided I'm schooling the full level and all it's required technicality, we should be good. Plus while many schooling shows are easier, many are also equivalent. If you do enough schooling shows, you'll eventually hit all the required questions / elements, even if it's not all on the same course. Plus this is also true of recognized events - some are easier than others, always. 

Fair Hill Starter Trial
Whereas I DO have a couple reasons for strictly competing at unrecognized events while running the lower levels:
  • I can (more or less) afford two unrecognized events for every one recognized - therefore doubling my potential experience and mileage. 
  • Should I be so inclined, I can quietly move up the levels all the way to combined P/T divisions at local starter events. Regular prelim only happens at recognized events, so at that point I'd make the switch. But until then? Unrecognized events fit the bill. 

MCTA Starter Trial @ Tranquility Manor farms
Essentially I see it as a function of goals. What are my goals? I want to have fun. I want to be the best rider I can possibly be. I want to see progress in the partnership between me and my horse - to see us tackling new challenges as they come. I want to demonstrate the progress of our training in competition settings, including moving up when it's appropriate. 

In my mind, nothing relating to these specific goals is really proved at the low levels between recognized and unrecognized. 

MDHT Spring Starter #3 @ Loch Moy
BUT. And here's the big "BUT" - and where I hope you will chime in - I've also never competed in a recognized competition ever (unless you count IHSA... which is its own entity entirely). So perhaps that single statement renders everything before it null and void, bc I lack the context for having an opinion on it. Idk. 

So my questions to you are: 
  • What do you think about this?
  • Why do you compete in recognized events? Or do you specifically avoid them? 
  • Is there something missing from above, something I haven't considered? Or do you disagree with any of my points?
  • Does it depend on the discipline? Meaning, does your reasoning change if you're talking about eventing vs. dressage vs. h/j etc? 

Really, please share your thoughts - I'm curious to hear more about this, since I know there are tons of opinions out there! 

67 comments:

  1. You make great points! I think it all comes down to what works best for each rider/horse.

    I loved recognized dressage shows. Heck, I just love showing! For me, recognized shows make sense because of my goals: a) more exposure for the Haflinger breed and b) riding Grand Prix someday. My horse doesn't mind changes of venue and doesn't get stage fright, so I don't have to worry about what he'll do. BUT, there's always the question of money...so I won't get to show as much going this route.

    For horses I don't know as well, who are youngsters or inexperienced, or if I just wanna try out a test at a higher level to see what I need to improve before going recognized, then I would feel better going to a schooling show.

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    1. lol i love showing too! never thought about the breed aspect of it, but that makes a lot of sense. i'm also starting to get the idea that going recognized earlier actually does make more sense for dressage - esp if you have higher aspirations

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  2. I think you thought or through very thoroughly and make good points. I only show recognized a couple times a year and that is good enough fir me. The only reason for me to up that amount isto qualify to compete in a long format event. Which I would like to do one day.

    I think recognized events are fun and worth the double if schooling at least once or twice a year. I don't disagree with any of your points. I just think the level of complication and bigger show environment should be a bit more weighted. While schooling the technical stuff is the way to success at the level nothing can equate to running a full course with all the technical questions in one run. I would highly recommend that when you're ready that you try one recognized just to see what you think.

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    1. I just want to add that I don't do recognized until we are succeeding in unrecognized. And by succeeding I mean placing at least top 6 if not better. While people say placings don't mean anything I disagree. I think it shows that you are successful and prepared for the level you're at.

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    2. that actually makes a lot of sense. this year was the first year that i even reached the recognized levels (bn), so my season planning was very much done by the seat of my pants. but in the future i could see strategically building specific recognized events into the schedule if there was something worth qualifying for.

      and i actually don't worry much about placings, but that could be a function of my specific situation. my mare has the talent to be competitive when i give her a good ride. so provided i do *my job*, and then don't do anything overly stupid in the jumping rounds, we have the potential to consistently place well. the times when we don't place well are usually for pretty clear reasons: we had a penalty on xc or a bad dressage day. and those would maybe be reasons to to hold off on recognized until we smooth out the issues.

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  3. So I haven't shown since high school and that was western and for 4-H so I'm not sure it counts. But here is my opinion/plan for whatever that is worth. First I need to get my horse to where he walks consistently at home. Then my plan is to hit up a bunch of schooling shows so he gets used to it and I can figure out my nerves. Once that happens I will probably stay at unrecognized for eventing, but do some recognized for dressage. Mainly because I want to get my bronze (and potentially silver/gold) medal. But I don't plan on doing recognized eventing due to the cost (~$700 for the weekend since we have to travel so far). If I move (salary would also increase) this whole plan would change.

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    1. interesting and good points. the cost difference between rec and unrec for eventing is definitely pretty intense - tho at least around here we have plenty of one-day options, so at least there's no stabling/hotels. but your points about showing recognized for dressage are well taken too - i hadn't really considered that the logic would be very different, but i guess it is

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  4. Haha, you know what I think. Please don't think I'm ragging on no recognized events- I had the same goals you do when I evented: hit all the questions and have fun. In my eventing career, I liked MTs because they were a hair easier (I never saw a MT course that hit all the technical elements in the same course, and as Amy said, there's nothing like mastering all of them in the same 5 min!), they were a ton cheaper (hitting two for the cost of one!), there were more of them closer to me, and I enjoyed schooling the day before (more experience). I did an unrecognized BN3D. Even though it was unrecognized (I believe there aren't any at that level that are tbh), we followed the recognized rules (no schooling, numbers on all the time, etc) we still had 3'-3'3" brush jumps on steeplechase on a 1600m long track, we went the speeds you have to for recognized events, and Phase D hit every BN technical element in the same course (including an up bank, one stride, down bank, something I'd never put together before). It was modeled as a learning experience like Waredaca's.

    Dressage is different for me. I never saw myself getting to the top of eventing. I can see that for dressage. I only started going to the recognized shows when I was looking to ride second level. The local schooling shows very rarely see second and above- one because people who ride that level either don't show at all or only show recognized, and two, the judges simply aren't supposed to judge higher than 2nd-4th. I don't know exactly where the cut off is, but I'll keep asking my local series to pull the higher level tests for as long as they'll let me, judged or not, because as you said, it is simply difficult to string it all together in public. I could use the practice!

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    1. I mostly only did recognized events because that's where my trainer was going and I wasn't always comfortable going to events by myself. Left that bit out!

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    2. ugh stringing everything together in public IS so hard sometimes! there have been so many times when just in practice i'm running through a test and just want to stop bc it's such a shit show lol.

      but yea your points about getting to the top of dressage v the top of eventing actually really resonates - and is maybe sorta unspoken but subconsciously implied in my post. i wrote 'should i be so inclined' about getting to prelim, but in reality that is a.... long shot haha. and probably a lot of other things would have to happen between now and then (like more than likely a different horse) so it feels very far away. whereas it is NOT unrealistic to think about bringing home scores towards usdf medals on the horse i already currently ride.

      also fwiw - that BN3DE sounds AWESOME haha - i would LOVE to do something like that! maybe next year i'll try to do waredaca's? (since i didn't even know it existed until it was already happening this year lol)

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    3. Do it! However, know that you have to qualify to do any that are held in conjunction with the USEA- you need to have 4 completions at the level you want to 3 day at, at or below certain scores at recognized HTs without any jump penalties. I did FMF's unrecognized version that you don't need the scores. I believe FMF is the only one that does jumping on the BN steeplechase- I want to say Heart of the Carolinas has a BN division, but it's a flat steeplechase. Of course I'm sure by next year you'd rather do novice since you're already out trucking away at it!

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    4. haha yea provided we can stay on track this off season, yea i'd probably want to stick at novice and keep chuggin along. but yea, i forgot about FMF too (even tho you've mentioned it before!), so its' nice to know about the options. it's all good food for thought tho. i haven't entirely ruled out recognized showing in our future, but just need the right kind of motivation to make it happen beyond 'i just wanna.' qualifications however would fit that bill. just gotta have something i really care about qualifying for!

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  5. I agree with your points. Unrecognized are an awesome way to get a show fix. However, recognized are significantly different from unrecognized. In my experience, the atmosphere is crazier, the number of people is significantly increased (I was at a show with 500 competitors once!), and everything just has an official air to it that intensifies my anxiety, and thus my horse's anxiety, ten fold. Also, at registered events, the judges are far more harsh in terms of rules. I was at an unrecognized that allowed someone's horse to jump out of the arena in dressage, jump back in, and continue without DQ. That is a huge no-no at recognized. I was at another recognized where my Trainer, without thinking, helped another rider on course and was subsequently disqualified herself. I've also seen a lack of concern for rider attire at unrecognized (a girl rode SJ and XC in a tank top, which is not at all acceptable in recognized), and so forth. I think purely competing at unrecognized can cause some people to get complacent in their knowledge of the rules.

    Since I've moved permanently to Dressage, I know that unrecognized will keep me satiated for a while, but I'll most definitely want to go for my medals at some point, so recognized will be what I strive to go to.

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    1. yea... the softness in rules is actually one of the things i like about unrecognized haha (tho obviously i do everything i can to avoid a TE). it seems like part of the 'spirit' of a starter show, ya know? tho fwiw, at many of the bigger unrec shows i go to (usually around 200 competitors, so, ya know, not small) breaking any of those rules WILL result in elimination, however they will usually let you continue with your ride just to do it, even if you're DQd. i like that a lot. tho ultimately at the end of the day i think it's the trainer's and rider's responsibility to know the rules, regardless of where you show

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  6. You know that I am aaaallllll about the schooling shows! In this area (Mid-Atlantic US) schooling and recognized events are often held at the same venues, with very similar, if not the same courses. So you can pay half the price and get a very similar quality of experience over recognized-caliber courses. Aside from just not having the cash to run recognized, let's be real here, I do not have the talent/skill/nerve to be competitive in recognized competition. If I'm going to shell out a few hundred dollars to go to a show, I dang well better be able to put in a decently competitive performance in order to make that time and money worthwhile. At this point in my eventing adventure, every show is pretty much for the experience - I am not out there to win, because there are still a lot of big holes to be filled in our training and abilities. Schooling shows are the only reasonable way for me to enjoy competing at this point in time. Maybe later on down the road, recognized will be a good goal for me, but for now schooling is the way to go! Additionally, coming from H/J land, the caliber of your competitors is VASTLY different at rated vs. unrated shows! To really know if you are 'up to snuff' in your chosen division, you need to show rated. Unrated competition is just nowhere near as stiff.

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    1. yea your last point there is something i'm starting to question - as i also came from h/j land where you saw a huge difference between rated and not rated. i am honestly beginning to believe that the same is NOT true for eventing. again my experience here is quite limited, and it could just be a function of where i live and compete - but i really truly don't believe that idea that someone who competes unrecognized could possibly not have the 'talent/skill/nerve' to do the same at a recognized event. i don't think the skill sets between the two are so very different (again provided you are actually fully schooled to the level)

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  7. Living where you do, you're lucky to have so many good options. Here there aren't that many unrecognized events, and only one of them is close enough to be able to drive there, show, and drive back in the same day. The rest are all 3 hours plus away. If I was in your shoes I'd probably be thinking the same things you are. It'd be reaaaaally nice to spend $150 per event instead of $500, especially on a horse that needs miles. So, I can't really argue with your points or reasoning at all. I will say, there are a few things about doing recognized events that I really do like: 1) I like supporting USEA. It's a great organization with lots of cool things for lower level riders (like their medal award program, AEC, ATC, Adult Riders, etc) that definitely enrich the experience for me. 2) I like putting myself out there with "the best" in the area. I figure if we can hold our own at our level in recognized company, that's the best litmus test. 3) The courses are harder. There is one schooling show that keeps the courses the same from their recognized shows to unrecognized, but the rest are generally softer, less technical, and not as big. If I was looking for a move up I'd look closer at an unrecognized (and actually AM eyeballing a few unrecognized shows for next season if we're ever ready to move up to T), but I feel like most of our recognized courses in this area are pretty stout for the level. So I know that if we can do well at those, we definitely "belong". 4) I like the perks at recognized shows. You definitely pay for the extras one way or the other, but I like the friendships and camaraderie that's built at multi-day shows, competitors dinners, team stuff, etc. 5) I like that my horse has an easily searchable record with USEA. The results are tracked down to minute detail and very easily looked up/tracked by anyone at any time. Of course, that means you can't hide a damn thing. ;) 6) Probably the most shallow - I also like the atmosphere of something more formal, with everyone turned out to the nines. The standard is high, and I like being a part of it.

    I think there are very good instances and circumstances for both, and agree that a lot of it is a "what do I personally want to get out of this" type of choice. Like I said, if we had more unrecognized events that were easily accessible to me, I'd probably be doing some.

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    1. lots of interesting points! i know what you mean about supporting the USEA, bc i support our local assoc - the MCTA, which holds two unrecognized and one recognized event a year. your points about the 'litmus test' about whether you belong or not don't really speak to me, but i can see how they are motivating.

      interestingly tho - i wonder if some of my feelings would be different if i owned my horse. i like the idea of building a searchable record (obvi, i love data!), and would maybe feel more comfortable setting bigger goals like qualifying for something like the AECs. at present it's kinda hard to be serious about a goal like that with a horse i don't own...

      ultimately tho - your very first point pretty much hits the nail on the head. i'm SUPER lucky in this location that i have so many excellent unrec options, and also plenty of one-day rec options that are still pretty affordable compared to what other people have to deal with.

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    2. If we had more unrecognized, I'd probably spend the majority of next year at them! I've been looking hard at the schedules and venues in the past few weeks, trying to figure out what I can do next year. It'll probably end up being a mix of both for me, dependent more on timing than anything else.

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    3. that makes a lot of sense - and glad to hear there are some realistic options for unrecognized as you guys work on climbing on up :) of course another option would be for you to come back to area II for just the summer lol. MDHT offers through P/T at their starters - and they even had a keyhole option at the recent event!!!!

      but yea actually, depending on how the year shakes out, i might even consider mixing it up a little bit. but for now, unrec is plenty satisfying.

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    4. Can you convince my work to keep paying me even if I'm out of the office for 4 months? I'd gladly join y'all in Maryland!

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    5. lolz just win the lottery! nbd, right? :)

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    6. While I love to show USDF shows it might have something to do with the fact the the nearest schooling shows are more than 2 hours away - the same distance as USDF shows. If I am going to drive that far, I may as well pay the extra for the rated shows. :0)

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    7. I basically agree with all of this! If there were more unrecognized events near me I would be all over it! But sadly there is 1 in August and that's it :( though plenty of schooling dressage shows and cheaper hunter/jumper shows! Just need to get my butt to those to practice with a bit of atmosphere! I am looking at heading to Aiken this winter (it's ~3 hours away) for one of the unrecognized events down there bc I have no idea how Chimi will handle overnighting somewhere since we've only competed at the local events and trailered over. No way am I going to spend the money for a USEA event without knowing if Chim is willing to sleep in a strange stall with strange horses next to him!

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    8. @ Karen - that makes a lot of sense, driving time is definitely a big investment so i can understand wanting to capitalize on that and get the 'full experience'

      and @ Bee Tea - i guess that sorta seems to be the same issue a lot of other riders face. we always knew we were spoiled around here... but wow i guess i haven't quite understood the full reality! anyway tho, overnight stalling is a huge unknown for me too. isabel pretty much lives out 24/7 anyway and is very unhappy in a stall, so even if we were doing recognized events it would probably still be the one-day variety. that plan about heading to aiken just to test it out makes a lot of sense - definitely let us know if you do it and how it works out!

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  8. Keep in mind that I'm a hunter, this may not make any sense for eventing. I like to show at levels higher than schooling because of the competition. Yes yes of course there is competition at schooling shows but I've found that it's not as consistent. I'm not usually competing against the same people, and a lot of the time the competitors are much more experienced riders just schooling their greenies. When I compete at a Trillium show it's usually the same core group of people and occasionally a few randoms. I feel like I get a better gauge of my riding and where Tucker and I are at. What it boils down to is that I'm a competitive person, I like to do well, I like chasing year end points and it means more to me if there is a core group of people that are working towards the same year end goals.

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    1. that does make a lot of sense - and was true for me during my hunter days (all strictly schooling shows). and i think in h/j land, there's the added motivation of how the judging is done, especially bc you get very little actual feedback (compared to say, a dressage test). i love the idea of working towards year end points (and am doing so with my local organization) and can definitely agree that's something that could maybe make it worth it to me

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  9. I have only done unrecognized events because there is no point in spending recognized money to show intro/tadpole :-) There are a few recognized events that offer that level, but it just doesn't make sense. At the same time, I could see myself doing those if I moved up to BN at the schooling shows I go to, but wanted to branch out to something with "terrain". For example, I do the Rocking Horse schooling shows which are mostly flat, since that's where I board and I can get there with no trailer. If I ever move up to BN there, I might do Chattahoochee at the lower level because they have hills, which I am really unfamiliar with. And because that's where my trainer and her students go, so that's where I can hitch a ride with the team to. I would only do recognized on a regular basis if I was truly at the BN level and wanting to do AECs. Actually, I would love to do that, but it's more of a 5 year plan at this point.

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    1. i would love to do the AECs one day too... but just struggle with longer term goals like that haha. your points are great tho - i definitely specifically avoided anything recognized prior to moving up to bn for exactly the same reasons - it's not worth it if you're not actually in a recognized level. but your other point - going where your trainer goes - is a very real factor (and one i didn't consider bc i have my own trailer), so i can definitely see how that might influence your showing plans

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  10. ooo you changed your banner! Looks so good!!

    Anyway...back on topic lol:

    I've never shown at a recognized show, never had the chance when I was younger, and am not quite there yet at the moment, but I have a somewhat inexplicable desire to do so and always have. Even starting from ground zero with an unbroke I really, really wanted to get to do a recognized event even if just it BN. It's still my goal - I was hoping to make it there this fall, but ended up having too many things going on this summer to focus on it. I'm hoping for next spring now. I'm not sure why I have this desire...all of your points are exceptionally valid. Maybe it is the 'prestige' of the recognized events? Maybe it's the thought of being part of the bigger eventing family? Maybe it's proving myself against more competitors? Maybe I'm totally shallow about it? I dunno!

    That said though - there is ABSOLUTELY a place for unrecognized shows in our sport (which isn't the point of this post, but I thought I'd say it anyway). I'm all about getting tons of miles at unrecognized shows cause they're nice and cheap and there are a handful in short driving distance to me. As far as I'm aware though, none of the ones near me go higher than modified Novice (N dressage test, BN jump heights), so BN is basically the point where I'd have to "graduate" anyway.

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    1. yay glad you like the banner! i've got nothing better to do right now other than fiddling with the blog so... yeaaahhhh haha.

      lolz anyway - i actually know exactly what you mean about that inexplicable desire. if you look back at my goals for the year, showing recognized was actually one of the 'reach' goals. ultimately i deemed it not a priority for the reasons outlined above. but i still totally get the idea of wanting to prove oneself at that level of competition, and figure if i still end up wanting to do it at some point, well then i'll probably just do it. bc it's horses and there's really at heart no true logic in why we do what we do with them, right? it's all driven by that crazy root obsession anyway lol

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  11. Haha. I definitely see your points. I haven't shown at a recognized event since I was in highschool. As an adult, I haven't bothered with recognized anything because if I'm going to shell out, I want to be successful. I was going to do it with my old man, but yeah, that didn't pan out.

    I do plan to start showing recognized dressage next year with an eye on achieving my medals, but we'll very much play by feel--if we do horribly at our first show, we'll probably drop back to unrecognized for the year until we feel ready. I cannot justify the $$$ to school. I have been doing lots of unrecognized stuff this year and we'll certainly start the year with schooling shows.

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    1. yea paying all that money to 'school' definitely sounds pretty .... unsavory haha. i think your plan for Courage makes so much sense too while you're working to make him more consistent at shows of any kind.

      recognized dressage tho... i'm really starting to believe there's a very different (and more tangible - at least for my tastes) value in showing recognized sooner rather than later. those medals - that have that certain allure, that je ne sais quois, no?

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    2. And not just the medals ... USDF offers those super cool Rider Performance Awards too. :0)

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    3. seeeeeee, all that kinda stuff has my name all over it haha. i need to start looking more seriously at the USDF lol

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  12. Disclaimer: my opinion covers dressage shows only of course!

    I almost exclusively ride in recognized shows. This was mostly because I was working toward my medals and championships each year at a pretty high level. Also, around here, once as you've paid your yearly fees, recognized dressage shows and schooling shows are about the same amount of money. Doing a schooling show may save me maybe $20. And most of the schooling shows around here aren't run as well as the rated shows, so I'd pay the extra $20 to make sure I'm riding at my ride time and can go home on time.

    I also do it for the judging. L graduates (those who typically judge schooling shows) are just not enough for me. Many of them irritate me either in that they are too tough for zero reason (like telling me that my horse had to be more uphill... at 4 years old and at Intro level), are too easy (like giving me a 66% when my horse was completely off the bit and tense the whole time), or very inconsistent (look, I get that kids are cute, but if I get beat by a child riding terrible geometry on a horse who is barely sound and not on the bit, I just can't trust your judging. I sound like a child-hating-fun-ruiner but it means that the judge changes judging tactics for each individual and that's not okay).

    After a test, I generally know what I'm going to get within a couple of percentage points. I'm almost always right with a highly educated judge, I'm almost always wrong with an L graduate, which leads me to discount the score and the placing even more.

    Honestly though, I think going either route is totally fine- recognized or unrecognized- it's all about what you get out of it. But the results (in dressage at least, where judging is the only thing that counts for scores) are not comparable. And that's the only time when it bothers me- when people think the scores are comparable. Totally different levels of judge education and a more high pressure environment (lots of schooling shows around here make allowances for people needing more time or having problems or wanting to ride in martingales/illegal equipment) means that they are not comparable to me.

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    1. great points - and i think you're speaking to pretty much the same ideas Karen asserted in her post (which was also pretty dressage-centric). the quality of judging doesn't bother me too much at my current level in eventing bc my horse is fancy enough that we usually do pretty well provided it's not an off day for us. but i can see how if that were our primary pursuit, i would need a little better than that - actual feedback that i could use.

      (also - i totally know what you mean about getting irritated by bad judging, and yes that totally happens at events too... luckily it's usually at least sorta consistent across the board so i can still get a sense of how we actually did by seeing where we placed relative to the pack. like when a 33 put us in 11th at one event, vs 4th at another comparable event)

      also i was completely unaware of your first point about difference in costs - that's actually pretty awesome! i would pay that extra $20 for better organization every day lol. remove the cost burden of competing recognizes vs otherwise and yea, i'd actually be all over it haha.

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    2. Yah I think the cost difference is definitely larger between schooling vs recognized for events in comparison to dressage. I feel like I'd have a different opinion if I was eventing on my current show budget. I could do maybe 1 recognized show a year vs a LOT of schooling shows. On a young horse, I'd probably opt for schooling shows this coming year to gain experience and then try rated when I had a bigger show budget.

      But I think dressage is as cost effective as you can get in terms of shows- even just thinking about the amount of manpower it takes to run a dressage show vs an event. All of the shows over the last few years on Rico cost me about $70-85 total. I only did one test on one day, didn't stay overnight, and didn't pay for coaching, but it was enough to earn my medals! I'm hoping I can show a bit more on TC eventually, but it's nice to be able to be competitive at rated shows when having a very small show budget (my lesson budget on the other hand...).

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    3. huh that's actually AWESOME! i would really like to dabble more in dressage, and plan to get a little more serious with my lesson schedule over the winter (when i'm fiiiiiiinally back in the saddle lol) and shows are definitely on the to-do list. nice to know that the rated dressage shows are so much more financially accessible compared to the eventing equivalents!!

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    4. i really want to!! my plan all along had been to transition to weekly dressage lessons with trainer C when dan goes south for the winter in december. obviously i had intended to continue riding with dan right up until that point, but obvi that's not happening any more lol. but yea, still planning to really sink my teeth into dressage lessons all the same!

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    5. (this is more to Megan's comments than lessons) Ha! I'm driving 2.5 hrs this weekend to go to a schooling dressage show that the entry was a total of $55 for two tests. After splitting gas with someone, that's cheaper than going and riding two tests at the local place 45 min away. I'm lucky to have cheap unrecognized places to dressage in public with baby horse. I refuse to pay to do training level at recognized shows though- I'll keep that for schooling.

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    6. i don't blame you about not wanting to show training at recognized - maybe something of that mindset is what's going through my mind when considering doing bn or n at recognized. like, i'll save it for when we're doing something more impressive, barring any other motivations haha

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    7. Emma you should totally show dressage!! Go get your bronze on that mare! Well, heal your leg first.

      Wow if I could do a schooling show for $55 for two tests, I'd totally do them every week!! I was paying $100-110 for a schooling show for two tests. I pay 100-130 for lessons with S judges so I switched to clinics. Now I'm just going to brace myself for the winter and save for next year's season.

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    8. haha i'd be lying if i said that idea hadn't crossed my mind ;)

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  13. Let me preface. There are so many horse show options out there.
    For me, it is a cost and need comparison.
    For unrecognized short course events here we are still paying $100 in entries. Granted recognized hunter is roughly $170-180 in entries, so not a huge increase in cost but when I count all the memberships required for recognized, we are up to $400 BEFORE entry costs. That is hard for me to swallow.
    Plus, most people in our area go to both recognized/unrecognized. So level of competition is roughly the same and I really don't have anything to prove by stamping my horses passport with events/placings because I don't plan to ever sell her and riding is a hobby.

    Overall. I show for fun. Cheaper makes things more fun somehow too. People are more relaxed.

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    1. yep that all makes perfect sense to me! i'm definitely all about the cost - and agree that in our circumstances there really isn't anything to 'prove' by paying extra for recognized. also - you can't beat the relaxed environment !!

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  14. If I had deeper pockets and more show miles, I would never show local. Recognized events (at least in my area) are better run with better courses and more realistic competition. I would never say "I'm a competent level X rider" without having gone into the ring at a recognized show and held my own. It's a different level of quality imo.

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    1. i definitely get that - especially h/j, and ESPECIALLY jumpers in particular. just bc i survived a 3' jumper round at a schooling show this summer does *not* make me a 3' jumper rider.

      here's to wishing for deeper pockets for everyone ;)

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  15. For me, this is heavily dependent on the area where I am competing. When I lived in TN, it wasn't difficult to find high quality unrecognized HTs. (My pony club held a GREAT one every fall for years!) However, here in OK, there are very few schooling HTs and I did NOT having a good experience at one earlier this year- fences weren't flagged, XC course was only partly mowed, no course map provided, etc. So for 2016, I'm planning to take Moe to recognized shows because if I'm going to drive 5+ hours to a venue, I want to be eligible to qualify for AECs or USEA medals!

    For dressage shows, though, I prefer to stick to schooling shows. Dressage is not my favorite thing, but the schooling shows are fun, I don't have to break out the white breeches, and the schooling shows are well run and judged by qualified people.

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    1. ugh yea i remember reading about that event with the unflagged and very confusing course and just thinking "WTH?!?" - that's really not acceptable and i don't blame you in the least for redirecting to recognized events to ensure you get your money's worth!

      and interesting points about dressage shows - esp as that seems to buck the trend of opinions in other comments here. i want to eventually start thinking more seriously about dressage, and expect to start with schooling shows. but also kinda want to be particular about *which* shows - or, rather, *which* judge

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  16. Interesting to read the comments! There aren't many options for schooling H/J shows where I am but a good number of "B" shows that are a little less expensive :)

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    1. i will always be grateful for less expensive options haha! tho like some others have said, i can totally understand why rated h/j shows make sense for the serious competitor

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  17. I think the previous comments have hit the nail on the head. For me (back when I had time and money and an actual show horse, ugh), it boiled down to a few things: location, competitiveness, differences in disciplines. I was obviously showing the breed show circuit, which is an entirely different ballgame. Location was huge and goes hand in hand with competitiveness - there was very little aside from small schooling shows within 6 hours of me, and the level of competitiveness was... not. I had a very nice horse and could easily go win all day, but why? My horse didn't need the miles, it was just money spent when I could have done the same thing at home for free, the awards weren't worth it. If I had a greenie who needed time in an arena with other horses or exposure? Sure, different story. But for an experienced show horse who knew her job and was good at it? Not worth it.

    The difference in disciplines plays big too. So, for us, there's no technical 'levels' to move up - just age divisions, and as you go to bigger shows, competition and patterns get harder. So showing at an unrecognized show just means doing patterns easier than what I was schooling in preparation for big shows. Not particularly useful. The other reason it matters is in breed show circuits, you collect points in each event which compile over a year for awards, but also over a horse's lifetime to earn big awards. Points make horse more valuable = earning awards = not earning any ROI at unrecognized shows.

    In something like eventing, dressage, h/j, I think they make a lot of sense - especially to help you move up a level and get comfortable at different heights, etc. But in breed show life, once you've moved up to a certain level of competitiveness, unless you're adding a new event* or on a baby, I don't think they return much value.

    * If I was going to add say, over fences classes to my QH, I would 110% go for h/j schooling shows to add those miles in that specific event before shelling out $$$ to show in like, one of three OF options at an AQHA show.

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    1. huh that's a really interesting perspective - i know next to nothing about breed shows (EXCEPT what i've read on your blog haha) so this is really enlightening for me and makes a lot of sense.

      your points about an experienced horse who doesn't need miles resonates too - there are certain shows/levels i won't bother with for isabel for similar reasons. but we are lucky that in our chosen discipline and location there are plenty of options to keep developing her and growing our skill set.

      also i LOVE the idea of lifetime points / awards for horses. that's definitely something i'd consider riding for (probably more so if i actually owned the horse haha)

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  18. My goal is to make it to a recognized horse trial next year. Why? Because we don't have any that are remotely close to here (I think the closest is 6 hours?) and the closest thing we have to events is event derbies. Though I love doing the derbies, I would really love to do the whole nine yards. Get dressed up, try really hard not to die from nerves, compete with some extra stiff competition, etc. In my own special mind, I will feel like I have made it to the big time. Though I do love our derbies here (we have three in Idaho and another option in Oregon) it would be nice to do something a little closer to an actual three day event. But, you need money for that...

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    1. see i get that, really truly. for as much 'logic' that i try to put into all my decision making, sometimes the heart wants what it wants (regardless of what the wallet thinks lol). so i totally get it, and seriously hope you and Bacon make it to that recognized event next year!!!

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  19. Coming from the H/J I don't entirely know how it compares, but I will say that one thing I miss about rated shows is the venues. Most of our schooling shows are one days at someone's farm, or if they are a few days, they are at a venue that is so-so. Our rated shows are usually at big, beautiful venues with lots of vendors, and a really cool atmosphere. I do also enjoy the level of competition, and the fact that there are higher options and more special classes such as Derbies, Classics, and Adult medals. Our local circuits are great for getting experience, or most of our less competitive riders, but rated shows are a different kind of world entirely. In general, I just feel much more like a serious competitor at rated shows due to these differences.

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    1. I should add that the course designing at our local shows is often questionable, while rated shows provide much more technical, and thoughtfully designed courses. I once did a power and speed class at a schooling show where the end of the power phase was around the outside on both outside lines, and then the start to the speed phase was continuing for another lap around. Yuck.

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    2. ah venue, yes i didn't think about that but it makes total sense. again, as a function of where i'm located, many of the big venues that host the recognized events also host unrec, so those options are still available, but that isn't true everywhere. same story for the higher option - many of the smaller recognized events, esp at smaller venues, max out much lower than what you might find elsewhere.

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    3. haha i will DEFINITELY agree that course design is not equivalent across the board! i've ridden some.... interesting stadium rounds at different venues lol

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  20. I don't ride in recognized shows for two simple reasons. 1) Cost. Dude, recognized shows are expensive. Seriously expensive and I don't have that kind of cash in my life. I can do 2-3 derbies for the cost of one recognized Horse Trial. 2) I haven't had a horse "recognized show" worthy. If I am going to put out that much cash, I had better be pretty sure I am going to place otherwise I need to stick to schooling shows. When I showed Appy, issue 1 was the reason I avoided recognized shows (except for that one time in dressage. And he was "that" horse that got loose, terrorizing people who were riding their test in front of the judge.... Never again). TWH was never recognized show worthy, his dressage just couldn't pass muster (we won't mention his one time in the USHJA ring where he did decently but I couldn't figure out what was going on). Mia is the first to come close and she is just now getting there.

    I am lucky that I am able to show at unrecognized HT's that are pretty close in competitiveness to the USEA shows. And I have zero desire to play in the USDF (or USHJA) ring :)

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    1. makes sense - i hadn't really thought of whether the horse was 'recognized worthy' or not, since i've only really evented my one horse (tho, now that i think about it, i definitely differentiate between where i would take isabel vs. where i would take bali haha)

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  21. Well I don't event but my sister does and after her first initial starter competitions, she only enters recognized shows. I think it's part of developing the horses record, as well as the difficulty level and m of the larger shows. Me personally, I would probably stick to schooling shows like you. I'm all for anything that costs less and have little interest in bragging rights or official records :-)

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    1. yup! the motivation to develop a horse's record makes a lot of sense, but is meaningless for me given my lease situation. and we are super lucky here to have many unrec options that are still comparable to the recognized events in difficulty and size. that works for me!! :)

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  22. I plan on competing in recognized next year to try to qualify for the AECs since Tryon is so close to me. My husband's already planning for it to be our family vacation, so no pressure...

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    1. no pressure!!!! that would be awesome to see you guys go to the AECs!!!! i would love to make a goal like that one day too, but just struggle with all the little details, especially since i don't even own the horse...

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